By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau
HANA, Maui Hana Ranch was sold for $24 million yesterday to a group of investors who have local ties and who promise to listen to the community before developing any of the 4,500 acres.
Hana Acquisition Partners LLC bought the site from Meridian Financial Resources LLC, the Chicago-based investment group that acquired the property in 1999. The Hotel Hana-Maui, Hana Town Center and the hotels beach facilities are not part of the sale.
Majority ownership of Hana Acquisition Partners is held by The Ronald Getty Trust and Susan and Roy OConnor, part-time Hana residents. Other partners include Shiwei Gao and James Miller, Susan Lindbergh Miller and Elon Gilbert, Victoria and Joe Cotchett, James Halligan, Shea Halligan and Patricia and Dan Omer, a 30-year Hana resident who will be chief operating officer.
Retired California Court of Appeals Judge William A. Newsom, trustee for the Ronald Getty Trust, said the plan is to meet with the community about the future of the ranch, most of which is zoned for agricultural use, and hire a consultant to master plan the property.
Newsom said the partners are committed to "not wrecking this place with over-development."
He said members of the huis executive committee are actively involved in conservation and land trust organizations. Newsom is a member of the advisory board for the Trust for Public Lands; OConnor is president of Montana Land Reliance. Miller served on the Nature Conservancy of Montana board of directors.
Newsom said that while the groups investment is a money-making venture, the partners arent out to turn a quick profit.
He said they will pursue development with the lowest possible impact and impose conservation easements to protect archaeological and cultural sites.
Newsom, a frequent visitor to Hana, said the partners are not interested in developing a golf course, as previous owners had been, which was a source of controversy in this community.
The immediate objective, he said, is to focus on the cattle operation by addressing maintenance issues. All Hana Ranch employees will be retained.
Maui County Councilman Robert Carroll of Hana said the partners are people of integrity. While some may be skeptical at first, he said, hes confident the community will warm up to the new owners.
"This is the type of group we wanted to get in there," Carroll said.
State Sen. J. Kalani English, who grew up in Hana, described the transaction as a promising development for the community. He said the new owners have a long-term view with a good chance of preserving the best qualities of the ranch.
"This is one of the best deals Hana could get," English said.
Meridian said it plans to maintain a close association with the ranch and retains the right to use the lands for hotel and guest activities.
"We are very pleased to place the Hana ranch lands into such capable and environmentally-conscious hands," Mark Ward, managing partner for Meridian, said in a statement.
Meridian purchased Hana Ranch and the Hotel Hana-Maui in 1999 and entered into an agreement with The Prairie Group to manage the 66-room luxury property. The hotel has undergone a $3 million renovation in recent months and is up for sale as well.
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